He double knotted the smooth laces of his new shoes and stood upright, gazing at them with vain appreciation. A simplistic design of blue and white leathers layered with precise needlework complimented the modern flair of a rubber spring as the heel.
“I just love my new shoes. Don’t you think they’re nice?” he asked.
A creature with seven fingers on each clawed hand and a face resembling a charred hyena’s maw smiled down to the runner. Tattered, bat-like wings were attached to his scarred human torso and the creature extended those wings upwards to the pulsing crimson sky.
“They look very good on you,” the creature gave the Runner a thumbs-up. “Well, do enjoy your run. I’ll see you later today.”
The Runner finished with his quad stretch and took one last look to his shoes. How he loved them so and how he wanted this moment to last forever, but the road ahead called to him with a song even a siren would fall victim to.
“Thanks. I’ll see you then.”
They saw each other off and the runner began.
His route took him down a steep incline, far away from the ebony hills and jagged caves. It was his favorite length of the run. There wasn’t much to challenge the runner nowadays; the burn felt the same and his knees held up just fine as he hopped around loose strips of gravel and the uneven cracks of the slope. The one blessing he had were the moments to admire those new shoes he received this morning when he crawled out of that cave and into the world he now knew as home.
But all good things come to an end, and in the Runner’s case, it always happened at the first fork of the road.
To his left was a dip in the road with a shallow spot of fresh mud that even an Olympic long jumper couldn’t leap beyond.
“Best not get my new shoes muddy – no, that won’t do at all,” he said.
The right path was both mandatory and repetitious and the Runner learned to take it with a smile. If you can’t beat em’ at least wear em’ down with that smile and ride it as you go.
He surged forward, pushing off the ground like a ferocious sprinter battling against equal competition. Scalding jets of steam melted the skin off his calves and fused the robin’s egg colored shorts to his thighs. Muscles seared as if they were to be served like under-cooked steaks; purple and oozing. His high-speed advance dialed down to a jog and he inspected his shoes with a fearful peek.
“Nice! They’re still perfect.”
A bend crawled upwards and he crested an uneven hill towards another intersection along his route. Hell gives choices while everlasting punishment chooses for the guilty. To his left appeared the sensible option. Puddles spotted along the path and the Runner thought he could jump around them ease, but he second guessed if his new shoes were water proof.
“Better not risk it,” he said.
His conscious thought colluded with a weary subconscious voice, permitting the excuse as both agreed in unison that it was inevitable to go against the eternal cycle.
Awaiting on the right path was a demon, standing grotesque with three sets of sinister lips barring many rows of sharp, bloodied teeth. An arm rose to the air and the jagged blade attached at the demon’s wrist sparkled in the crimson sun.
“You’ll never learn, will ya?” Joked one of the demon’s mouths.
The Runner extended his arms forward with unrepentant knowledge of the outcome and the demon sliced both arms off just above the elbows. He never once slowed his pace and the demon wished him well. The sentiment was returned, and the Runner carried on.
His trail brought him up a narrowing peak, thinning inwards to a strip of stones that jutted between a flow of hungry magma. The runner loathed this moment and wished he could take a one final gander at his shoes. He knew better, as any misstep risked the potential horror of scuffing the white and blue leather. Solid earth disappeared, replaced with precarious step stones floating through the magma like the distant glimmer of hope from a far-off shore.
And waiting beyond was that embankment below the ebony caves that he called home, and flying above was the terrible monster on those abhorrent wings.
“Well, pride got me here in the first place, so no turning back now, right?”
The monster agreed and cheered to the Runner as he advanced to the first rock. Confidence grew inside of him and he leaped to rock after rock until the inevitability caught up to him. The Runner toppled into the liquid fire and was able to wrench his body so that he splashed back first.
They were his favorite pair of shoes, after all.
© Copyright John Potts Jr 2016 – 2017. All rights reserved.